Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Interactive CAP Resource Reveals Grim Economic Trends in U.S. Child Care
Press Release

RELEASE: Interactive CAP Resource Reveals Grim Economic Trends in U.S. Child Care

Washington, D.C. — Even as other economic sectors continue to bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic, disparities in child care and early learning access, affordability, and workforce stability remain alarmingly deep across the United States. A new interactive resource from the Center for American Progress allows users to explore national and state-level data trends on a range of topics tied to this issue, including access to affordable care, the child care workforce, and Head Start, as well as exclusionary discipline policies.

Key national-level findings from the dashboard include:

  • Early childhood poverty under the supplemental poverty measure more than doubled from 5.3 percent in 2021 to 12.9 percent in 2022.
  • More than 14.4 million, or 67.8 percent, of children under age 6 have all available parents in the workforce, and 2.7 million parents report making job changes due to issues with child care.
  • An estimated 14.5 percent of children under age 6 who meet federal child care subsidy eligibility standards actually receive them.
  • A smaller percentage of children in poverty are accessing Head Start programs compared with before the pandemic:
    • An estimated 35.5 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in poverty were served by Head Start programs in the 2022-2023 school year, compared with 49.4 percent in the 2018-2019 school year.
    • An estimated 10.9 percent of infants and toddlers in poverty were served by Early Head Start programs in the 2022-2023 school year, compared with 11.6 percent in the 2018-2019 school year.
  • Across the nation, 31 states and the District of Columbia have some type of policy aimed at reducing the use of exclusionary discipline in early care and education settings, with high variability in the type and scope of policy implemented. 
  • The estimated number of workers in the child care sector remained about 38,200 below pre-pandemic levels as of October 2023, and job recovery in the child care sector has been slower than in other pandemic-affected sectors. Low wages and poor benefits continue to drive hiring challenges. 

The data makes it clear: high-quality child care and early learning opportunities are unaffordable and inaccessible for far too many families across the country, with burdens falling disproportionately hard on already vulnerable low-income families. This resource and its accompanying toolkit provide key data points that, together, build the case for increased investment in the child care sector.

“The time is long overdue for large-scale public investments in a child care system that truly meets the needs of all families while also promoting fair compensation for the essential work of early childhood educators,” said Allie Schneider, research associate for Early Childhood Policy at CAP and co-author of the report. 

“By understanding who is most deeply affected by this crisis, the conditions of the workforce, accessibility and affordability of care, and quality measures, policymakers can be better equipped to craft legislative solutions that best support children, families, providers, and the economy,” said Hailey Gibbs, senior policy analyst for Early Childhood Policy at CAP and co-author of the report.

Explore the dashboard: “Data Dashboard: An Overview of Child Care and Early Learning in the United States” by Allie Schneider and Hailey Gibbs

Explore the toolkit: “Early Childhood Education in the States: A Toolkit for State Policymakers” by Anna Lovejoy and Hailey Gibbs

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Em Espey at eespey@americanprogress.org.

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